What is Kentucky’s Seat Belt Defense?
While the Kentucky courts have acknowledged the safety belt defense, Kentucky laws specifically state that failing to wear a safety device doesn’t “constitute negligence per se.” [Kentucky Revised Statute §189.125(5)] In other words, you cannot be denied all compensation for damages in a car accident based on the sole reason you were not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash.
However, your failure to buckle up can reduce your compensation under Kentucky’s comparative negligence laws. For this reason, we urge you to contact our Kentucky car accident attorney for assistance. Our attorneys can help you fight the seat belt defense to protect your right to recover the maximum amount of compensation allowed by law for your car accident damages.
How Does Comparative Negligence and the Seat Belt Defense Reduce My Accident Claim?
The Kentucky Court of Appeals has issued two decisions that support the safety belt defense in relation to comparative negligence. In the first case, Geyer v. Mankin, 984 S.W.2d 104 (Ky. App. 1998), the court ruled that a jury can weigh the fact that the victim was not wearing a safety device when it is apportioning fault for injuries. In other words, the jury is permitted to blame you for your injuries for failing to buckle up. Therefore, the jury can assign a percentage of fault to you. Your compensation is then reduced based on the percentage of fault assigned to you for your injuries.
In another case, Tetrick v. Frashure, 119 S.W.3d 89 (Ky. App. 2003), the court ruled that a jury can impose a general duty of care upon a passenger for his or her own safety. This ruling allows jurors the ability to decide if failing to wear a safety belt contributed to the injuries sustained by a passenger in a car crash. If the jury determines the failure did contribute to the injury, it can assign a percentage of fault and reduce compensation by that percentage.
What are the Seat Belt Laws in Kentucky?
Under Kentucky Revised Statute §189.125(6), every driver and every passenger in a motor vehicle must be properly restrained by a safety restraint. Children must be restrained using a child safety restraint that is appropriate for the age, weight, and height of the child. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet provides guidelines on the requirements for child passenger safety on its website.
There are two exceptions provided within the statute. Letter carriers with the United States Postal Service are not required to wear a safety restraint while performing their job duties. The other exception is for an individual who is unable to wear a safety belt because of a medical or physical condition. The person must have a written statement from an advanced practice registered nurse, a physician, or a licensed chiropractor confirming the reason why the person is unable to wear a safety device.
In 2014, sixty-one (61) percent of the people killed in motor vehicle accidents were not wearing a safety restraint. Even though the use of seat belts increased when Kentucky passed its primary enforcement law for safety belts, the use of safety belts is still lower in Kentucky than the national average. We urge everyone to buckle up to reduce their risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident.